Whether you have a polytunnel, or are considering getting one, you are likely to be doing at least some of your gardening in containers. Even in a larger polytunnel with plenty of growing space, including a few containers in between your main growing areas can help you make the most of the space. This beginner’s guide will help you when gardening in containers.
Choosing Your Containers
When choosing your containers, it is important to remember that not all plants enjoy the same conditions. Some plants will need good drainage and will do better in a terracotta pot, others will be better in containers which retain moisture more easily. A stone planter will retain heat and help sun-loving plants from warmer climates, while a metal one could overheat the roots of some delicate plants. Understanding the needs of the flowers, vegetables or herbs that you want to grow will be the first step in successful container gardening.
When choosing your containers, you may also wish to consider avoiding plastic ones. Plastic comes with a range of environmental concerns and so many gardeners are now choosing to refrain from buying new plastic items. However, another thing to consider is how you may be able to re-use plastic food packaging which is unavoidably brought into your home to use as containers in your polytunnel, which could help you reduce the amount you contribute to the plastic waste problem.
Positioning Your Containers
Almost everyone will have enough space to put a few containers in their polytunnels. But where you choose to locate your containers could be the difference between success and failure in your container gardening endeavours. Position planters and containers to take advantage of the best places for sun, for shade and for shelter in your polytunnel, to create mini habitats for a range of different plants.
Growing Medium For Pots and Planters
One of the best things you can do to ensure the continued good-health of plants in your container garden is produce your own compost using waste from your kitchen and any plant waste that is generated. Compost is especially important where you are trying to grow at least some of your own food, and can help ensure container plants get the nutrients they need. In addition to making sure that a growing medium provides plants with nutrition, adequate moisture retention, as well as adequate drainage, should also be considered.
One of the main problems you face when it comes to container gardening is knowing how much to water, and when. Many common problems with container gardens are caused by either over or under watering. Make sure that you have created the right environment for your plants and are aware of their watering requirements. Another common problem is pests. Consider all the means at your disposal to help with pest problems, from companion planting to netting to traps
There are a great many possibilities when it comes to the plants that you will be able to grow in a container garden, especially container gardens inside polytunnels. Think beyond herbs and salads and grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers and you could be enjoying fresh and healthy produce for many years to come.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.